Tuesday, September 5, 2017

[Review] Patti Cake$

Actress Danielle Macdonald and director Geremy Jasper burst onto the scene with Patti Cake$. It's a hard-not-to-root-for underdog story and a precious love letter to loving hip-hop.

Meet Patricia (Macdonald) - aka Killa P - aka Patti Cake$, a larger-than-life personality and aspiring rap star who's desperate to get out of her rundown New Jersey town (cue the Springsteen song, but really--there is a Springsteen song in this movie). Along the way, we follow her struggles to get her music career off the ground, all in the face of her haters.

Like its main character, this film is brash, fun, and full of creativity. It flaunts a visual flair that maneuvers between gritty and flashy, stylish and sublime. And as unabashedly silly and purposefully tacky as things can get, there's an irresistible energy and wide-eyed spark to the story, as well as a surprisingly heartfelt emotional core--especially as the narrative explores Patti's messy home life and her complicated relationship with her mother (Bridget Everett).

Macdonald is a revelation, giving a praiseworthy performance. It's a role that could've easily gotten cartoony or overly stereotypical, but she embodies it with a fully dimensional humanity. She feels real. She feels genuine. We believe her when she looks into the mirror and says "You're a boss bitch." And we also believe her when she doubts her self-esteem and wonders if she's a complete failure.

Patti isn't alone though. The film also has a great supporting cast of oddballs, including Patti's best (and only) friend Jheri (Siddhart Dhananjay), who works as a pharmacist by day and a turn-up R&B crooner by night. Then there's the mysterious "Basterd" (Mamoudou Athie), a Death Grips-inspired experimental artist who claims to be an anarchist and the antichrist. When these three form a group together, their misfit dynamic is truly a sight to behold. Even Patti's wheelchair-bound, chain-smoking Nana (played by Cathy Moriarty) lays down some sick vocal samples.

When it comes down to it, Patti Cake$ is all about the dreams in life that are chased and the dreams in life that are crushed. It's a feel-good film with a bittersweet flow. Don't sleep on it.

* 8.5/10 *

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